Because a business is made of people, ultimately the only way to grow a business is through people.
You must have noticed it already, however: People don’t change much. Over time? May be a little. But for the most part, people stay the same, more or less, throughout their lifetimes. Billions of dollars are spent every month around the world in the hopes that our people will go from low performing laggards to high performing super-stars. And yet we are disappointed time and again in how little they change their ways.
Why don’t people change? Because they really don’t want to change. Deep down inside, people have a huge - and I mean HUGE - fear of changing.
Sure, they want to collect new information, update their memory banks with new stuff, often get new certifications and college degrees and even pick up some new skills from time to time. But that’s not change. It’s actually not even growth.
Real growth comes from the inside out. True learning consists of lasting change that forms new behaviors, new values and new habits. As I often like to say, true learning is a journey from the head to the heart, from the heart to the gut and from the gut to the actions.
Why do people fear change from the inside out? Because familiarity breeds comfort and safety. They feel safe in their existing conditions, circumstances, beliefs and thought-patterns and fight tooth-and-nail when they are challenged.
True learning is about challenging what is assumed to be known and moving into unknown possibilities. But it requires letting go of the old, and that is scary for most people.
If you want to create a learning culture - a true learning culture - in your business, it’s not enough that you spend a lot of time and money sending people to professional development seminars. You must also cultivate a true, inside-out learning culture so that learning is not just an occasional event but something that’s deeply imbedded within the daily activities of your organization.
How do you cultivate a true learning culture? There are three important strategies in cultivating a true learning environment.
1. Hire the Right People
Hire people who are conducive to change in the first place. Granted, some people are hard-wired against change and often they are some of the best employees. With such employees, you may have to dial back your “change” expectations a little. However, with such people, it will be even more important that you hire the right people for the positions they fill.
A good way to find out people’s openness and approach to true learning is to assess their learning tendencies before you hire them, ideally before you even interview them. At Awayre, LLC, we have found that hiring right is the most important thing an organization can ever engage in. For this reason, we combine data from multiple sources of assessment solutions to determine people’s learning capacity and tendencies.
2. Make it a part of your up-front and regular conversation
Talk to them regularly about what’s expected from them, and what they can expect from you, as it relates to learning and growth. Let them know that learning and change that comes from the inside out is very important to you as a business. Ask them about some of their learning strategies. Also discuss with them what you have discovered about their learning strategies that they may not be aware of. Make sure that you allow them to explore these learning opportunities in their daily work. Review the subject every time you meet with that person one-on-one in your weekly or monthly meetings.
3. Be an example of someone who is willing to be vulnerable
Learning inherently involves being vulnerable at our core. Most leaders and managers are afraid of an inside-out change themselves. They especially avoid putting themselves in the position where they may be perceived as vulnerable or weak. When people see that you have the humility and the strength to be vulnerable, especially in front of other people, their respect and affection for you increases and sends them the message that it’s “ok” to be vulnerable, to not know something and to be humble.
But the best thing you can do to cultivate a learning culture is to instill the right set of beliefs about learning. In my work, I have identified 7 specific misconceptions that get in the way of true learning. Click here for “Beliefs about Teaching and Learning: 7 Barriers to Professional Growth and Development.”
It’s important to spend time, money and effort in developing our people. But it’s even more important to do it in a way that gets the right results for both our business and our people. When we approach professional development with this renewed mindset, the rewards prove worth the effort. When its people are exposed to and engaged with their core, a business becomes an unstoppable movement that could produce incredible results for all its stakeholders.
Copyright 2013 Bhavesh Naik. All rights reserved.
Bhavesh Naik is the Founder and Creative Director of Awayre, LLC, a management consulting and human resource development firm specializing in activating the hidden power of a business process by engaging its people’s awareness. Awayre, LLC is a pioneer in bringing human awareness to the field of management and human resource development as its structural and fundamental component.